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Should police publish rape reports on online crime maps?

May 23, 2011 | 11:35 am

Lapd-screenshot

The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that the Torrance Police Department deliberately withholds information on hundreds of crimes from its online crime map, including some of the most serious.

More than 150 theft reports filed at the Del Amo Fashion Center in the months after the map launched are missing. So are eight rapes recorded by Torrance police and scores of other crimes the department deems "confidential."

Sgt. Jeremiah Hart, spokesman for the department, said rape reports are omitted to protect the privacy of the victim.

"For us, it's a balancing test," Hart said. "Do we put it on a map for everybody to see and do we balance that against the privacy of the victim. We gave more weight to privacy of the victim for those crimes. That decision is rooted in one of our core values: compassion for those victims."

Torrance's policy of withholding rape reports from its website stands in contrast to the position of other agencies in the county, including the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which publish information on all major crimes online, including rapes.

Those reports are then republished by third-party sites, including The Times' Crime L.A. database.

Most police maps, including the one published by Torrance, display a block number or the nearest intersection of a crime, rather than the precise address where a crime occurred. But Torrance officials argue that is not enough in the case of rape reports.

In a press release sent to The Times, Torrance officials explained their position:

Do you agree? Should rape reports be blocked from online crime maps?

-- Ben Welsh

Photo: A screenshot of a sexual assault mapped by the LAPD's online crime map.

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